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All knotted up: Cocke County Commission seat race remains a tie; will be decided by election in November

The two candidates each got 420 votes in early August for a county commission seat.

The Cocke County Commission had to determine how to settle a tie between two commission seat candidates after reviewing a provisional ballot on Tuesday.

On Aug. 15 they decided to wait until November to see who will take a seat on the commission. Commissioner Barry Ford said they would send the votes back to District 3 for a special election.

Incumbent Terry Dawson and challenger Tracy Stepp each got 420 votes in the Aug. 4 contest for Cocke County Commission District 3, Post 2. 

The single provisional ballot could have broken the tie. However, the race remained a tie after the ballot was reviewed Tuesday because the person did not vote in the commission race. 

Credit: Cocke County Election Commisison
Cocke County election return for County Commission race.

With the tie remaining in place, it is now up to the county attorney and County Commission to determine how to proceed. 

There are steps in place in state statutes to guide governing bodies whenever a tie occurs, Josh Blanchard, chief of Cocke County elections, said.

Blanchard said he believes the election will be certified as a tie, and the commission could either choose who fills the seat or call for a runoff election.

According to a 2012 opinion from the state attorney general, a county body can resolve a tie for a county office: "The General Assembly has established that, in the case of a tie vote among candidates seeking an office in a single county or civil district, a vote by the county legislative body to select the winner of the election is the only method whereby a tie vote for such an office may be resolved."

Voters are allowed to fill in provisional ballots if poll workers have a question on election day about their qualifications. Election authorities then hold the ballot until it can be reviewed by a panel for legitimacy.

"Provisional ballots are reviewed every election,” Blanchard said. “But it’s usually not in the spotlight.”

Ties are rare but they're not unheard of.

Five years ago, Knoxville City Council candidates Harry Tindell and Amelia Parker tied in a primary for a council seat. City Council members then voted to have Tindell advance on the ballot to the general election.

Tindell came in second to Lauren Rider in the general election with 3,407 votes. Parker garnered nearly 2,200 votes as a write-in candidate.

In some cities across the nation, ties have been resolved with a coin toss.

RELATED: City Council breaks election tie, advances Harry Tindell to general election


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